Monday, October 25, 2004

Google Mail - from famine to feast

Like most tech geeks over the past few months, I've been an active participant in the Google Mail feeding frenzy. You know the drill: Google released its take on a next-generation web-based e-mail service into beta and managed to goose the buzz level beyond the apogee of SpaceShipOne by strictly limiting who could participate in the program.

By tightly controlling the supply side of the equation, this new-generation savvy firm guaranteed an insatiable demand for what is essentially Hotmail on steroids (I'll duck now to avoid the epithets which will inevitably be hurled by the Google Zealots who will proclaim the new service to be the second coming of some long-dead guy who, contrary to popular belief, never drove and wouldn't know what car to drive in any case.)

My sentences are apparently running on. Must be something in the air today. Either that or it is simply a Monday. Yes, that's it. I don't write well on Mondays. Which is a bit unfortunate given some of my most important deadlines seem to fall on Mondays. But I'm drifting off-topic. Another byproduct of Mondays, I guess.

In the beginning

How I came to get my first Google Mail (or Gmail) account was through the web site back in June. I remember the thrill I felt when I got an e-mail from a complete stranger letting me know he was sending me a coveted and rare invitation to set up a Gmail account. I imagine this is what Christmas would have felt like – assuming that I even celebrated Christmas. Which I don't, incidentally. (Geez, I hope my rabbi isn't reading this!)

The day a "You may invite up to five friends to join" link popped up on my account was another good day in the evolution of Carmi – yes, I know, I lead a pathetic, technologically-bound life, but I'm happy. I picked my favorite friends and colleagues – family members are still too disenfranchised from the whole wave of technology to make any use of such a resource, so I didn't

For some reason, my wife didn't share my elation upon gaining entry to the browser-based messaging revolution. I remember the nonplussed look on her face when I told her. She gave me a quick whatever comment and left me to my own playtime on the computer. When the extra invitations showed up, I told the cat instead. He rubbed up against my ankle.

Things have changed

Fast forward a few months and the whole Gmail situation has evolved significantly. The company has on at least two occasions significantly loosened the restrictions on who could invite others into the family and how many invitations would be given out in the process. The GoogleSwap site now engages in a completely different online activity (no, not that!).

Now, the "invite a bunch of friends" message is granted to pretty much anyone with a pulse. Most leading-edge mail users already have at least one account. Blog postings offering free accounts to whoever asks generally go ignored. Despite the fact that Google's stock price has been rising faster than the price of oil in recent weeks, its mail property has become decidedly ho-hum.

The bottom line

This entire situation depresses me because I'm sitting on ten (!) invitations and for the life of me I cannot think of even one person who would like one. So please consider this post my last desperate attempt to distribute them to the only ten members of the entire planet's population who have not yet heard of Gmail. They must have been camping out on an ice floe in the Antarctic over the past few months and are eagerly looking forward to reconnecting with the online world. Whatever their excuse, I hope they – or you, on their behalf, or even you on your behalf – will kindly step forward and help get these now-commonplace invitations off of my hands.

What do I expect in exchange? Unlike the denizens of Ebay, I do not wish to receive money in return for these intangible collections of electrons. I similarly don't want to be granted any favors. Please do not send me your semi-completed summer camp macramé project. You may save that batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies for your shut-in neighbor

The real payoff

In exchange for a Google Mail invitation, all I ask is that you consider paying it forward by doing something nice for someone else. It can be anything you wish. Large or small. But it must be altruistic and reflective of the kind soul that you so clearly are (I absolutely believe that only kind souls read my blog.) Please post your good-deed intentions as a comment to this posting, and I'll gladly send you said invitation (make sure you include a working e-mail address.)

We'll use the time-tested honor system; I trust that everyone who steps forward will gladly follow through on each commitment to engage in the greater good.

I'll keep giving 'em away until they're all gone. I'm sure the benefit to the world around us will extend way beyond access to a ridiculously overhyped piece of server-based software.


Rachel - Wicked Ink said...

I would ask for one, but my brother set me up a couple of weeks ago, when I moved back from my MAC OS9 to my PC, Win 98 (which won't really work with GMail, so now he is building me a brand new comp with XP). See how these things work?

I can check my gmail at work, and once it's at home too, I will be slowly getting rid of my ISP mail accounts (too spam laden right now).

Good luck, and I will forward on this offer to others who need gmail.

Terry said...

do I need gmail? will it do things other mail won't do? if I promise not to muscle little kids off the sidewalk in my attempt to feel more powerful will that work for paying it forward?

now, if you had something that put a cool voice on my PC (like the hotmail woman) then we'd have something. personally i'd love to hear Tim Currie's Satan tell me "You've got mail!"

Wheelson said...

Don't forget to check out the "New Features" section of GMail. One of their new features is a beta version of a mail notifier. This is great. It's a little icon that sits down in your system tray and gives you a notice when you have new gmail. You can easily set it up to play a sound, whatever sound you want, when new mail arrives.

At the moment I have several "whipping boy" mail programs and gmail will allow me to rid myself of all of them. If I didn't have my own server, I'd use gmail for all my email.

Carmi said...

Rachel: I thought I had that problem on the kids' Win98 box. Gmail didn't much like the ancient (circa v5.0 or so) version of IE that lives on it. So I installed Mozilla Firefox (currently at 1.0 Pre-Release, with the full 1.0 version coming sometime next month) and now it works like a charm. I'm sorry to hear you moved back from Mac to Windows. It was a sad day in my life when I was forced to do the same. I think the transition scarred me for life. Virtually, anyway.

Terry: No one technically needs Gmail. It's just one of those free, nice-to-haves that, over time, tends to enhance our online experience. I could have stuck with my old Hotmail account, but when I figured out how much time I was wasting trying to manage my inbox within a pathetic 2 MB limit, and how much more time I'd be able to devote to my actual work if I wasn't babysitting my e-mail account, the decision was a no-brainer. Wheelson's recommendation to use the notifier could get you that Satanic "You've Got Mail" voice after all. If you're game, I'll fire the invite your way.

Wheelson: Thanks for the tech tip. I'll give it a try later on. I will do my darndest to avoid blowing my computer up in the process. And if I do, I'll do so after I've had a chance to watch this week's Desperate Housewives - or at least after I've burned it to CD.

Gee, at this rate, I may need to resort to some desperate measures of my own to unload these invitations. Anyone have any other suggestions?

Kate said...

Wil Wheaton has a thing on his site where you can donate your Gmail invites to soldiers in Irag (or other places too probably)

Go to and you can donate them.

Dean said...

I love Gmail.

I didn't like the interface at first, but now I'm hooked on the 'search, don't sort' algorithm.

Mark said...

I love Gmail, especially the email notification application, and I think that is a great idea of yours Carmi, to get people to do something positive for one! I may do the same, if thats ok?

Carmi said...

Chellee: Thanks so much for that link. That's exactly what I'll do with 'em!

Mark: Absolutely. The more who do little nice things like this, the merrier!